What are Your First Impressions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
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The play opens on a ghostly, supernatural note with the three witches brewing a spell amidst thunder and lightning as an omen of what is to come. The incantation is not in iambic pentameter but in an archaic and enigmatic language. During this short scene, we hear Macbeth’s name for the first time, and it’s spoken by one of the witches. ‘There to meet with Macbeth’. This indicates that they will play a momentous part in the life of Macbeth throughout the play. And they do, as Macbeth’s heralds of all things good and bad, “fair and foul”.
Significantly, in the period in which the play was set, there were few ways one could prove his manhood; as Macbeth seems to be impotent, he feels he has to compensate on the battlefield. The Captain, Ross and the King use various appellations such as “noble…brave Macbeth…Bellona’s bridegroom…disdaining fortune…useamed him from the nave to the chops…bloody execution”. All of these descriptions represent different aspects of Macbeth’s nature. To us, he seems to be a courageous and admirable man however, by reading deeper into the text we can see that he is in fact a bloodthirsty ‘butcher’ as he is described later in the play.
The three witches appearing again in I 3, seem to flank the scene in which Macbeth’s courage and ruthlessness in battle are described. This could represent that the supernatural has control in this play as they are “The weï¿½rd sisters”, referring to Greek mythology as the sisters of fate. This scene is where Macbeth makes his entry. His opening words echo those of the witches ‘fair and foul’; this is another indication of the supernatural having control. They now hail Macbeth in three different ways: ‘Thane of Glamis….Thane of Cawdor…King hereafter.’ Macbeth’s fatal flaw is triggered; ambition. Macbeth feels that although he should not completely trust the supernatural figures, he will not ignore their prophecies. He feels that if these prophecies were to be proved true, he would accept them without resistance, “If chance may have me king, why chance may crown me/without my stir”. However, Macbeth’s feelings drastically change in I 4 when King Duncan announces his son Malcom heir to the throne. Macbeth now decides that fate needs a ‘helping hand’ for him to acquire the throne.
Imagery of natural growth and fertility is used both by Macbeth and Banquo, all positive images. “I have begun to plant thee, and will labour/to make thee full of growing”, “There if I grow/the harvest is your own”. The king also uses cosmic imagery of the stars, “But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine…” As the king said this, Macbeth plays with these words in his aside “Stars, hide your fires/let light no see my black and deep desires.” This seems to be Macbeth’s attempt to conceal his real nature, staying out of the light; this sense of darkness is also a way of correlating him to the creatures of the obscure such as the three witches.
Macbeth in I 5 sends a letter to his wife announcing the arrival of the king and the prophecies that had been revealed to him. It was unconventional at the time for a man to report to a woman which could be an indication to Lady Macbeth’s status in the play, as Macbeth seems to submit to her will. In addition, this letter is Lady Macbeth’s trigger to start plotting a course of action. We also see in the letter that Macbeth treats his wife as equal, and a loving partner, “…my dearest partner of greatness.” Yet, we can see evidence that Lady Macbeth is concerned for Macbeth she “Yet I do fear thy nature;/it is too full of the milk of human kindness”. She considers Macbeth weak and not able to make his own substantial choices, which in part is true. Seeing as the play is set in a patriarchal society, one of the reasons for Lady Macbeth’s obsession with the crown is women’s oppression at the time. If she was to become queen, she would gain social status and power which was very hard to obtain.
Furthermore, Lady Macbeth knows that she has a very impressionable husband and if he was to become king, I believe that she would be the power behind the throne as she turns out to be. Lady Macbeth too is very ambitious to the point that she even asks the spirits to “…unsex me here/and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/of direst cruelty”. This connection to the supernatural also brings her closer to the three witches and her husband as they both have these relationships with the paranormal evil, moreover using dark and hellish imagery , “Come, thick night,/and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell”. At this point, I believe Lady Macbeth is actually possessed by supernatural evil and is another of their means to create chaos. She tells Macbeth that he must try to look innocent and play the part of the kind host, nonetheless underneath this blanket, he must be evil and ruthless something that is in his nature. “..bear welcome in your eye,/your hand, your tongue look like the innocent flower,/but be the serpent under’t”.
Overall, the image of the characters portrayed in this section of the play is as follows. Macbeth is a courageous soldier, valiant and brave who seems to want no more then he has. However, his fatal flaw, ruthless ambition is triggered by the supernatural which soon takes control of him and his live creating chaos. However, Macbeth alone is too nervous to fulfil his ambition. This is where Lady Macbeth steps in as the catalyst. She comes in later, a sadistic character, dominated by thirst for power. She would try anything in order to become queen. She drive’s Macbeth’s ambition and pushes him over the edge to do the various deeds. Both of the characters show connections with the supernatural and both reveal a part of them that is of an inhuman nature. Soon enough, we see that these personalities obtain control over the characters and in due course prove their downfall.